I wanted to share the journey I took from entering college as a music education major to now working with maps and information technology. Because there is a lot I want to say, I’m going to break this story into multiple articles. As these are published, I’ll add links to the other articles in the series here at the top.
It seems like the value of a college education is a topic everyone is talking or writing about today. We hear about millenials who are burdened with college loans and are working jobs where their education is not being fully utilized. We see articles that talk about how millenials are putting off having children or buying a home. And more recently, I saw that there are some significant proposed changes to the federal student loan program.
I can relate. I graduated college in December 2007. That was right before the Great Recession. And I had a hard time finding a well-paying, meaningful job. But I want to share a positive perspective on this experience. I want to encourage people who aren’t where they want to be yet. I want to let you know it’s okay if you’re working in a field or industry that is completely unrelated to your post-high school training. And if you’re not working because you are taking care of children or parents, then I want to affirm the challenging and extremely important work you undertake everyday.
Here, in 2019, I am doing the kind of professional work that I want to be doing. But it has literally taken me ten years to get here. It has not been an easy journey. There were some false starts along the way. But I’ve persevered. I’ve stayed focused on the goal.
So I want to summarize the past ten years. I’m hoping that by sharing my story, you will be encouraged in the journey you’re on. And if you have advice for others, feel free to leave a comment.
In 2003, I started attending Millersville University (Pennsylvania) to study music education. At the time, it made the most sense. But during my freshman year, I realized that getting graded based upon a journal of my practice sessions was stealing my joy playing musical instruments. By the end of the second semester, I had switched to an elementary education major.
That summer, I worked as a residence counselor at a YMCA camp. That was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I wanted to give up so many times. But through the encouragement of the staff and my faith in Christ, I made it to the end. I learned two important lessons that summer: 1) There was no way I could teach elementary students; and 2) I remembered my interest in science and the natural world. So once again, I switched my major. This time it was Earth and Space Science Education.
I really enjoyed this major. I was taking classes in all the standard science subjects: geology, chemistry, biology, physics, and astronomy. But then came the teaching side of the major. During “sophomore block” (which I took as a junior), I spent some time learning about teaching in the experiential setting of a York City middle school. During this experience, I questioned if I was cut out to teach.
But after talking with my advisor, I once again decided to persevere. When I took “junior block,” I would probably be placed in a suburban school. That would provide a different experience. So, I took my final block of education courses my second to last semester of college. As anticipated, I was placed in a suburban high school. And this experience was very eye opening. After observing the teacher, and teaching a few lessons myself, I got a reality check: How was I going to make earth and space science fun? How was I going to have interesting, inquiry-based lessons day after day? How was I going to keep these kids engaged during my lectures? I could see their boredom - and it scared me to death!
At this point, I was just one semester of student teaching away from graduating college. But I had no idea how I was going to make it through fifteen weeks of teaching. After some soul searching, I decided teaching was not the right profession for me. Many of my friends told I me I should have just completed student teaching. But I know for a fact I would not be able to handle it.
The lesson here is that sometimes you need to take the advice from friends and persevere. But sometimes you need to trust yourself and set their advice to the side. And I’m so glad I went with my gut instinct.
In part 2 of this series, I’ll pick up at my final semester of college. It should be coming out in the next couple weeks.